Monday, August 31, 2015

Women, Tennis and Art

 Camille Pissarro. One of the few tennis paintings not about wealth and leisure. 

As I settle down to watch the US Open, I've got all the English channels on record, but I often listen to the French Canadian RDS coverage. It's very very good.

Le passing? L'amorti?  Tennis is a French game anyway. I think the name comes from "tenez".. as in 'here' or 'hold.'

Serena can speak French apparently. Genie,too, for obvious reasons.

Anyway, I've written here about my suffragette play Furies Cross the Mersey and how I created a character, Penelope, who is an avid tennis player.

In one of the scenes in my book, she hears British Suffragette Barbara Wylie speak in 1912 (true story). Wylie says, "Women have made themselves conspicuous in tennis, why not in politics?" (True quote.)

When McGill opened its doors to women in 1886, the first extra-curricular group formed was the lawn tennis society.

They had luncheons where they played the guys, you see! Very cagey of them.

Well, my work lately consists of writing about ART, so I went online to see if there were any paintings of tennis.

But, of course!  And the paintings, mostly from the Edwardian Era, are mostly of women, women of the leisured classes.

Except for the paintings about the French Revolution and the Tennis Court oath.

Indeed, someone has published a book about Tennis and Art.

Here are some of my favorites, all from the Wikigallery.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

War and Suffrage and Politics (as usual or unusual).

Mrs. Denison's Threat..March 1914 So, if WWI hadn't happened, we might have had a real suffragette movement in Canada! Big if, though.

Furies Cross the Mersey is  the story of how the British Suffragettes invaded Montreal in 1912/13.

It is also the story of  the 1912-1913 trials of Carrie Derick, Canada's first female full professor at McGill and first and only President of the Montreal Suffrage Association.

In the 1912/13 era, Carrie Derick was also an active Past-President of the Montreal Council of Women, a group that was highly ambivalent about their support for Mrs. Pankhurst and her militant suffragettes in England.

To keep controversy at bay, they had to spin off the Montreal Suffrage Association, totally against their own by-laws. The Montreal Council was, after all,  an umbrella group of social organizations that had sprung up spontaneously from the grass-roots.

Furies Cross the Mersey takes place in 1912/13 when the Pankhurst suffragettes of the UK were ramping up their militancy, setting fires and such,  and making sensational headlines in the Montreal newspapers for it.

The ebook includes two other story-lines, one fictional, one real. The real story centers on the  Nicholson women of Richmond, Quebec, and Montreal, my husband's ancestors, who left behind 300 letters from the era.

The fictional one involves two students at McGill's Royal Victoria Women's college.
From Votes for Women

I am now embarking on the follow-up to Furies Cross the Mersey, a murky story that will be about the Conscription Crisis of 1917 and explain how Canada's suffragists were involved up to their elbows in the deception. It's tentatively called Service and Disservice.

A trip to Toronto is in the air. Flora Macdonald Denison's papers are at the University of Toronto and contain many scrapbooks and hopefully some delicious dishing about the movement. Denison and another Torontonian, Constance Hamilton, figured prominently in WWI events.

The Nicholson's wartime story will figure in Service and Disservice, too: the family left behind many wartime letters. These are compiled in Not Bonne Over Here, also on Kindle.

In the 1912/13 Edith Nicholson was a young, unmarried women and all for Mrs. Pankhurst's window-bashing suffragettes.

 She clipped reports of the WSPU's Miss Barbara Wylie's visit in 1913 to Montreal, a pretty, 30  year old suffragette who didn't mince words when it came to her support of Mrs. Pankhurst's militant tactics.

Edith N. was also about 30. Like many of the era's  'new women,'  was fighting to have more fun in her life in a day and age when young unmarried women were considered in need of protection from the evil elements in society and, especially, from their own shallow and erratic  impulses.

Of course, it was understood that women grew out of this erratic phase, whether they married or not.  And with Edith it was no different, although WWI likely matured her beyond her years.

Edith volunteered with the Y's Red Triangle and other organizations like the Navy League.

By 1919, the end of the war, her letters reveal, Edith was a conservative spinster, with much war volunteer experience, discussing the evils of VD and the good of temperance in her letters and ready to go and work at McGill University,  supervising the 'excitable' younger set.

My Furies ebook ends in May, 1913, with Mrs. Pankhurst's troops acting up and provoking a slew of bizarre and biased stories in the press.

 (The Suffragette movie with Streep and Mulligan soon to be released on October, 23rd, is all about this time in herstory.)

WWI broke out in August, 1914, and the 12 months prior to this is a telling time for the Montreal and Canadian suffrage movement.

The suffrage movement in Eastern Canada didn't quite know how to behave, or how to 'brand' itself.

You can see that if WWI hadn't happened, there might, indeed,  have been a more in-your-face suffrage movement in Canada.

Maybe Edith Nicholson, dear old Aunt Dee Dee, who also figures in Furies Cross the Mersey, would have joined in the fun and gone to prison for it ;)

I found a newspaper report of a speech given by Torontonian Flora Macdonald Denison (my favorite Canadian suffragist) in May 1914, when Ms. McD was fighting for her political life as leader of the Canadian Suffrage Association, an equal rights organization founded earlier by Emily Howard Stowe.

In the speech, the journalist and working class suffragist, defends herself for sending well-wishes to Mrs. Pankhurst who was in jail.

She also says the Canadian suffragists shouldn't use force like the militants in the UK, UNLESS.....Dum de dum dum.. (See clip above.)

Constance Hamilton, who would become Toronto's first female alderman, gives speeches in her capacity as President of the rival Equal Franchise League, part of  a turf war between the two organizations that would continue through the WWI years, long after Denison was ousted from her own Presidential post in 1914 for either 1) supporting Mrs. Pankhurst 2) being too working class herself.

 In 1914, as recorded in the newspapers, Constance Hamilton defends her National Equal Franchise League organization as the 'real' national group, saying the proof lies in the recent membership of  "Society Lady' Lady Julia Grace Drummond, of Montreal.

She says the fact that Lady Drummond has  joined her new national organization gives it 'some class.'

"We're not working class like Denison's organization, Hamilton seems to be saying, although at other times she speaks in the press of wanting to start a 'working women's suffrage group.' (Ah, politics.)

Constance Hamilton had visited Montreal to talk directly to the Executive of the Montreal Suffrage Association in March 1914. It's written in their minutes.

The MSA under Derick joined Hamilton's National/Toronto Equal Franchise League shortly thereafter. They merely considered joining the Canadian Suffrage Association, their minutes reveal.

As it happens, the Montreal Suffrage Association (1913-1919)  is one of the few Canadian suffrage organizations to leave behind their minutes, because President Carrie Derick passed them on to Thérèse Casgrain in 1933 at a luncheon in support of Provincial Woman Suffrage and they have ended up in the archives at Montreal City Hall.

Edith Nicholson, by then a distinguished McGill matron, was at that same luncheon, as it happens.

(It is possible that Denison's Canadian Suffrage Association kept no minutes. One criticism of her was that she didn't understand governance and did not exercise due diligence but ran the show all by herself.)
 Page from minutes of Montreal Suffrage Association with bit about Hamilton's visit.

Carrie Derick, no doubt, cleaned up these MSA minutes and other documents with an eye towards her place in history. (Bthe way, Carrie Derick also ran the show all by herself, she just made sure it didn't seem that way. Cagey lady, she. )

Compared to, say, Gerin-Lajoie's fonds at the Bibliotheque Nationale, these Montreal Suffrage Association fonds don't contain very much. (Gerin-Lajoie was head of the Fédération St Jean Baptiste.)

One could say Derick's fonds are very Protestant and Gerin-Lajoie's are very Catholic.

At the very 1933 luncheon where the MSA fonds were turned over, Thérèse Casgrain claimed that Derick would always be remembered as a famous Canadian.

Of course, that didn't happen. It is understood by public historians that the Canadian Suffrage  Movement was racist, among other uncomfortable things. And Carrie Derick, a Botanist who knew all about pea-pods, was a prominent and influential supporter of 'eugenics' theory.

Toronto delegation in Washington,DC march. Inez Milholland. Pics from Toronto Sun.

In this speech from March, 1914, clipped above, Denison claims that the suffrage movement in Canada started in Ontario.

Carrie Derick didn't agree.

Derick claimed it started in Montreal, with the Donaldas, the first female McGill students and that it was the Montreal Council of Women that persuaded the National/Toronto Council of Women to support woman suffrage in 1912 and this 'against determined opposition."

She said this in a speech in May 5, 1913 at a Suffrage Evening during the week long AGM of the Canadian Council of Women. 

My Furies Cross the Mersey story ends at this very AGM, with the guest speaker, Mrs. Ethel Snowden, beautiful and charming moderate suffragist from the UK, giving a brilliant speech and calling Mrs. Pankhurst's troops 'cavemen.'

Flora Denison attended this 1913 Montreal AGM as President of the Canadian  Suffrage Association and also as a member of the executive of the National Council of Women.

Edith Nicholson also likely attended. She wrote in a May 2, 1913 letter she was "going to hear Mrs. Snowden speak, although she is not militant and for this I am very sad."

In October 1913,  Flora McD Denison would go to Europe with her son to represent Canadian suffragists an international conference,dropping by London on her way home, where she would hang with the militants and write vivid accounts of their tumultuous working class meetings for the Toronto Sun.

Soon after her return, she'd be booted as leader of her Canadian Suffrage Association.

Always one to stick to her principles, at this earlier May 1913 AGM, Flora McD Denison made a protest speech against the National Council because that organization had come out in favour of the flogging of men who force women into prostitution.

It is written in the AGM's 1913 Annual Report that  Denison attended the March suffrage parade in Washington, D.C. as part of the Canadian delegation, with Stowe Gullen and many other Torontonians.

That is the march where Inez Milholland, draped in white robes, led the parade of 10,000 marchers on a beautiful white horse, hoisting a flag with the colours of the WSPU militants.

There's pictorial proof of this, too. See above.  From the Toronto Sun. These are probably the ONLY photos of Canadian Suffragists marching that we will ever see.

No Montrealers marched in that Washington parade, apparently.

While this suffrage parade was taking place in March, 1913, the Montreal Suffrage Association  was being launched after a two year delay, promising in the Press to be sweet and reasonable and to go about a 'quiet education of the people.'

One of their Executive Members, a Reverend Dickie from  McConnell's church, said that 'it would be better if the British suffragettes starved to death in jail.'

No marches were allowed Montreal. (Read Furies, it's all about a would-be suffrage march down Sherbrooke to the Mount Royal Club!)

It is likely some of the same TO women attended the other huge May 3rd suffrage parade
in New York City.

 The New York Times reported that there was a Canadian contingent present at the massive Fifth Avenue parade, an event that figures big time in my Furies Cross the Mersey.

Of course, Gullen and Denison couldn't have attended the New York March, they were at the Montreal AGM.

Carrie Derick center. Pankhurst top.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Dream Catchers and Old Lace

A lace handkerchief once belonging to the Nicholsons of  Threshold Girl. The dark pin is Margaret's mothers, as it contains a picture of John McLeod. The other two pins, I have been told, are pins for kilts. The framed picture is Young Margaret, and the silver item at right is an ink well and pen.Yikes! I saw an advert in the 1909 Gazette for Christmas Handkerchiefs, costing from 2.00 to 25.00 for Irish lace. Nothing to sneeze at! Hmm. Maybe this one is worth a fortune. Antiques Roadshow, here I come.

Yesterday I went through a pile of 'old lace' and table linens once belonging to the Nicholsons, and put many on display in my home. My mother-in-law, who likely inherited them at Edith and Flora's death (or perhaps her own mother's death) kept them rolled up and hidden away for decades.

A few months ago, I took a long lace collar and draped it over an antique mirror in my bedroom. A few weeks later, I watched the movie Young Victoria for the first time and there's a scene in her boudoir where you can see a piece of lace is draped over her dressing table mirror. "How clever of me," I thought, to have done the same.

Yesterday, I took some lace doilies, in many different patterns and safety-pinned them together and pinned them up on a wall over the bed in the spare bedrooom which is turning into my 'office' as it is the only room in my house that has direct sunlight.

I write on my laptop, lying on my bed, listening to BBC Radio Four on the other computer my husband set up for me.

My mother- in-law kept this particular handkerchief in a separate box from the other antique linens, in her dressing table drawer, (also a Nicholson 'memento' and also in my office, here) so I suspect it is a special piece.

Now, on this blog  I often talk about the Nicholson girls of Threshold Girl as being deskilled, and compared to their mother, born in 1854, they certainly were.

But they could still do embroidery and lacework. I believe I read that Edith, the intellectual, was the best at this homely art. So these doilies, pictured at bottom, were likely stitched (what is the term for lace, pieced?) by the Nicholson girls.

BCC Radio Four featured a mini series of a few years ago the History of Private Life which I found fascinating. The narrator/author of the series, Amanda Vickery, said that women learned embroidery as a mate-catching tool....Now we all know that few men appreciate the beauty of lace (my husband has been very quiet about my recent home-decorating splurge) And embroidery isn't a practical skill.

So why did lace-making maidens attract the men? Well, any woman with the time to make lace or embroidery was obviously well-to-do. And any rich woman with the inclination to waste her hours in this manner (my words) was going to be a passive easy-to-please mate.

Tomorrow, I think, I am going to take the old Nicholson hot iron I am using as doorstop and heat it on the BBQ (if my husband will fire it up for me, as I don't do that kind of thing) and try to press one of the linen table mats (a not very good one)as an experiment.

And then I'll cook something from Marion's 1912 copy of the Fannie Farmer Cook Book. Scones, I think. Maybe on the BBQ too.

Since I cannot sew at all, I'll never be able to make a shirtwaist, although patterns exist on the web. But I can do something very 1910's. I can WALK to the mailbox 1/2 kilometer away. (No, not THAT! Anything but that. I'll even learn to sew.)

The lace on the wall. It's dark and rainy outside, so this lace doesn't show up well, But these are very very delicate pieces, of little practical use. I probably should mount them on a bright background. You know, the native people have 'dream-catchers' that are very similar. 

So these are dream-catchers of another kind, embroidered by women hoping for husbands... They are also mandala-like. Hmm. Maybe there's more to this 'frivolous' female activity than meets the eye.
Must ask Clarissa Pinkolas Estes. (I wonder what Edith would have thought of Women who Run with the Wolves.)

Trudeau, Coderre and Montreal City Hall...well,

My aunts in bathing suits. The lady on  the left was adopted, as in plucked from the streets and taken in by my bourgeois grandparents. Perhaps she was saved from a life of prostitution, as her family was dirt poor and she was very pretty. Perhaps not.

The  day, two years ago, I went to Montreal City Hall to look over the 1925 Coderre Report on Municipal Malfeasance and Police Corruption in their archives, I also went to the premiere, at night, of the Great Gatsby, a film I still really like.


Because at City Hall I read a bit of the transcript of the Coderre Inquiry into Police Corruption and Vice from 1925.

My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services from 1921-1930, had been implicated in Juge Coderre's Final Report, which made all the newspapers, even the New York Times. ( I wrote a play about it, Milk and Water.) It's available on Amazon. He was accused of having the Police under his thumb.

But this particulary transcript, provided to J.J.J. Brodeur, the head of the Executive Committe back then, didn't include another bit of  incriminating testimony, the testimony of a certain Constable Trudeau of the Montreal Force.

Trudeau said my grandfather forced police to look the other way when movie theatres allowed in under age kids. He told The Court, "There's going to be a catastrophe one day."

Trudeau was immediately fired by my grandfather, apparently for bribing his boss to get his brother in law a liquor licence. LOL.

(Trudeau sued to get his money back :)

Hmm....Then there was the Laurier Palace Theatre Fire. I find this a little bit suspicious, don't you?

The transcript, though, did contain all kinds of  other interesting stuff.

And in honour of The Great Gatsby's release :) I am transcribing an exchange between Juge Coderre and a certain George O'Hadale (can't read my notes here) a Private Investigator from Chicago who was brought in by Dr. Haywood of the Committee of Sixteen to investigate bars, disorderly houses and gambling joints in Montreal.

He spent 15 days in March doing his research.

It seems cabbies, bellhops and just about everyone in the tourist industry tipped him off as to where to go.

A Bennet Cab driver asked him if he wanted to see some girls. The biggest place, never raided because they paid protection...

He said yes of course (Just doing research)

George O'H testimony says: At the door the 'housekeeper' said, "Come in the back, boys, the girls are at the rear."

We went back to a small dance hall. There were no girls, just a man sitting at a piano.

Juge Coderre "What kind of piano?"

George O'H: "Ordinary piano"

The dance hall was square. (O'H motions with his hands to show the size as compared to the courtroom.)

The Housekeeper asks "Do you want to see the girls?"

He says "Yes"

The Housekeeper pushes a button and about 30 girls come out in the space of a minute. They are dressed in shimmies.. little dresses "no bigger than a handkerchief" O'H motions "two strips here  and the dress up to here."

Coderre: The knees?

O'H: 6 inches above the knees.

"Some had socks, slippers, others had stockings slippers. The girls circled us. Some of them were sitting down, some kneeling, and some who were standing up began to shake their bodies, exposing their bodies to us. Encouraging us to go to bed with them.

At the same time, about six of them put their arms around us and said.

"Well, now, come on. It's 2 dollars. Three dollars. No fooling here. Let us go to bed, buy a drink , or get out."

So the Madame asked,

"Are you boys going to stay?"

"I said NO."

She said, "You will have to get out. This is a business house."


This place appeared to be one of the more 'genteel' places. O'H describes the prostitutes in one house as "disgusting."

In another, girls are smoking 'dope cigarettes' and snorting powder and there are male prostitutes too.


Apparently, the city had spent 2 years in a campaign trying to clean up the Red Light District but not one house was closed. Also apparently, raids are conducted, the Madames and the girls are brought to court, fined and back at work that night.


A certain prostitute claimed she made 150 to 200 a week. At the going rate, that would be 20 clients a night, the man testifying figures.


There are dance halls too where girls as young as 15 go to 'have fun' and 'meet interesting men" and make a few extra dollars.


The prostitutes all appear to be called "Pearl" or "Rose"...


At the Bagdad Cafe, across from the very respectable Mount Royal Hotel, liquor is served up until 7 am.
 Whiskey, high-balls, wines, beers, champagne.

(After this report, the official closing time for Montreal dancehalls was put back an hour from 1 am to 12 am.

All this is to prove, Movie Cliches come from somewhere.

My story in e-book form, Milk and Water, about Montreal in 1927, has my grandfather and my husband's grandfather waiting for the Prince of Wales, who has planned to escape from his handlers and visit an "after hours" Jazz club. ..

Not too far-fetched.

Montreal's Corrupt City Hall Circa 1913

A reporter I knew who covered a city beat for a smallish newspaper once told me civic corruption, even in littler cities, is all about land... and money, because land is money.

He would have been interested in the story I am writing, tentatively called Service and Disservice, about the 1914-1917 period in Montreal.

The Montreal Municipal elections of 1914  focused on two issues, an impending Tramways Deal (and wherever the trams went, land prices increased) and a "Pure" Water Issue.  For some righteous people, it was all about providing quality services to the tax-paying citizen - and 'purifying' City Hall along with the water supply.

 For others, businessmen both English and French,  it was all about making a bundle in the process.

The tramways deal, a 40 year contract, was said to be worth a billion dollars to certain people, who knows who, likely Hugh Graham of the Montreal Star, or so his rivals claimed.

Graham  is accused of having bought off all kinds of politicians, in Quebec and in Montreal. He also is accused of monopolizing the Montreal media by buying more and more newspapers.

My story Service and Disservice will peak at the 1917  Conscription Crisis, but the characters will be social reforming suffragists as well as  City Hall officials. Well, my grandfather will make an appearance, for sure.

My first ebook about the era, Furies Cross the Mersey, is about the British Invasion of Militant suffragists to Montreal in 1912/13.

A main character in it is Miss Carrie Derick, VP of the National Council of Women, Past-President of the Montreal Council of Women, President of the newly formed Montreal Suffrage Association.

Derick figures big in the 1914 civic elections. She gives multiple talks, One talk is showcased in all the papers: "A Woman Speaks about the Elections."

Carrie Derick, stumping for Stephens, promised that ALL women will vote for him. (Not quite getting the concept, I guess.) The Montreal Suffrage Association executive voted to support candidates who were for women suffrage, whatever else their platforms.)

In these articles, Derick's many affiliations are not mentioned just the fact that she is a prof at McGill. Hmm. The Montreal Council of Women's social hygiene program turned off the French and La Fédération St. Jean Baptiste (the French equivalent) was not active in this 1914 election, as they had been since 1904.

My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Second Assistant City Clerk, is also in all the Montreal newspapers at the EXACT same time. In very late March, 1914, he is caught in a bribery sting by one Edward Beck, intrepid reporter, who employed Burns Detectives from New York with 'detectaphones.'

In his article, Beck called my grandfather a grafter, go-between in Quebec City, and a manipulator who played both sides of civic government, the aldermen and the Executive Committee.

An article from the 1937 Montreal Gazette claims that my grandfather's real job was 'to teach aldermen their jobs" and he went gray doing it.

My grandfather was related to the Forget's through his mom. (Well, so am I.) From La Patrie.

Lookie here: from Toronto World

The timing of this bribe is most suspicious.The 1914 election was held a few days later. In the 1910 and 1912 elections, where 'reformers' won, a 'graft-free' City Hall was the slogan of the day.

Beck accused my grandfather of exacting tribute from lowly day-workers for the city.

I guess they were going with this winning 'beat the grafters' formula in 1914 as well.

Whatever, my grandfather managed to get off, suing Beck for 25,000 dollars, but being awarded only 100 dollars by The Court.

 Alderman Mederic Martin, a clownish candidate with no real organization behind him and no newspaper support, won a surprising victory over the 'pure-government-minded'  Citizen-Committee approved Col. George Stephens, who loudly proclaimed in his speeches that he was not in anyone's pocket.

A French newspaper, Le Pays, claimed that it was the English newspapers that made Mederic, by putting him down so much, ridiculing him so much, making the average man identify with him.

One newspaper suggested Martin was an ape aspiring to higher things. His campaign consisted of throwing his calling card with Vote Mederic Martin onto a table at City Hall in front of reporters.

Read this Coolopolis bit.

(Martin had claimed, after going AWOL on a visit to the Quebec Premiere, that he had been drugged by the opposition.)

Mederic Martin went on to be Mayor Montreal for a long time,  although after 1921 the position was mostly ceremonial.

 My grandfather rose to be Director of City Services, a post created in 1921 to ensure an equitable distribution of city funds across the districts.

He had a memory like a steel trap. Everything happening at City Hall passed by his desk. Put two and two together.

Mederic Martin would lose the 1928 civic election to Camillien Houde, another Man of the People. Houde would, then, in 1930, kick out my grandfather, but not before my Grandpapa negotiated a huge life pension of 8,000 dollars a year.

That's all in Milk and Water, about "Prohibition Era" Montreal, where there was no prohibition.

 Above, Mederic Martin and Aldermen, fishing trip.  My family photo. My grandfather in white hat with black band beside Mayor Martin in cap, center. Below. Mederic Martin toasting David the Prince of Wales in 1927, at reception on Mount Royal. The Prince enjoyed partying with Mayor Martin, apparently.

 George Stephens, head of Harbour Commission and Edward Beck, reporter, formerly of the Herald. When Hugh Graham purchased the Herald in 1913, Beck was kicked out as Editor (or left on his own volition.) He started his own tabloid, Beck's Weekly, devoted to cleaning up Montreal City Hall. 

That paper lasted only one? issue, the March 28, 1914 issue  where he smeared my grandfather. 

Graham apparently made it impossible for Beck to get newsprint for his new tabloid.  The Daily Mail printed Beck's sexy stories as did the Toronto World, and quite gleefully too. 

The Toronto World reprinted some parts of it verbatim. Beck called City Hall 'a sink hole of corruption.' He was a talented over-the-top writer who should  have penned Crime Novels, I think.

Here's an interesting summary of affairs in Montreal, written in a newswire story from Toronto and printed in a Pittsburg paper. This is in January of 1914, when Edward Beck of the Montreal Herald caught three Quebec MPs in a similar bribery scandal.

I think Beck wrote this too. He's the one who caught the politicians in the bribe, but his newspaper, the Herald wouldn't print it, (having been bought by Hugh Graham) so he quit and brought the story to the Mail.

Soap and Values

May Fair Wells, who figures in my ebook Milk and Water. She was a Southerne Belle who expected her servants to do all the housework, except sewing. She liked that. She lived in Westmount, a rich suburb that sent its sewage downstream to the poorer areas.

Yesterday, I audited a Johns Hopkins course about the History of  Public Health and the professor explained that the Urban Hygienist movement of the Victorian Era issued out of Jeremy Bentham and the idea of Utilitarianism.

Ironically, it was in Paris where medicine men first figured out the epidemiology of urban diseases like typhoid.

But, apparently, they didn't feel that the governments should get involved with 'cleaning things up' as this would interfere with the individuals rights.

It was in Great Britain, in Manchester and such cities, were the urban hygienist movement  got rolling, because it was understood that healthy workers made good workers (and good soldiers).

Individual rights came second to the general good with these English.


Kind of ironic, really, if you think about it.

In Montreal, the issues around tainted water supply and sanitation ushered in the modern welfare state, at least according to some scholars.


Using primary sources allows students to learn history from the inside out.

So does genealogical research.

A few years ago, I purchased and read the book, The Age of Light, Soap, Water and by Mariane Valverde, but there was little in this book that  I didn't already know.

I had been researching the background to the Nicholson Family Letters for my books Threshold Girl and Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, books that take place in the 1910 era.

In 1904 and 1909 there were typhoid epidemic in Montreal.

 Norman Nicholson, the family patriarch, who had contracted typhoid in 1896, wrote in one letter that he was afraid to drink the water anywhere, including up in the Bush in La Tuque where he was working.

Once bitten, twice shy.

Macdonald College, way out at the tip of the island in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, where Flora Nicholson studied to be a teacher in 1911/12, had put in a well in 1909/1910.

Before that, for three years, they had been using river water.

Ste. Anne was far away from where Montreal dumped its sewage but there were fears (real or imagined) about the quality of the water out there.

Herbert Ames, the Privy Man, who wrote The City Below the Hill, revealing how many Urban Montrealers still used outdoor toilets in 1897.

But with Protestants, like the Nicholsons, in that era, the concept of cleanliness got mixed up with the concept of godliness.

That's why I opened Threshold Girl with this quote from a 1911 issue of Food and Cookery Magazine.

"Give us a healthy home, where the homely virtues prevail, where the family basks in purity and peace."

The Nicholsons were a wonderful and  devoted family  who loved their fine home, Tighsolas, but their closets held skeletons too. Plenty of them.

When I wrote Milk and Water, about by French Canadian ancestors in 1927 Montreal, I discovered even more about the place where ideas about hygiene and values intersect. (It's a very complicated place.)

1927 was the year of another typhoid epidemic in the City, caused by tainted milk this time.

It was also a year of many scandals, one of which was the Montreal Water and Power Purchase, where a rich industrialist, Lorne Webster, flipped said company in a few days for a $4,000,000 profit.

The City of Montreal bought the private company in 1927 to control the water supply to their newly annexed suburbs.

My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services, was made a scapegoat  for this fiasco and he was forced to retire in 1930.

Jules was a 42 year old veteran of City Hall, who had started out as a messenger boy in the Sanitation Department in the 1880's.

The Art Deco Facade of the Public Bath on Amherst opened in 1927. Montreal had 16 such baths in the era.

Milk and Water explores the different values of French Canadians and English Canadians in 1927, the era of American Prohibition.

One key  area where values diverged was with this Hygienist movement. French Canadians were wary of the movement for reasons centered around class, ethnicity and religion.

My grandfather was on the City Clean Up Committee and he is quoted in the newspaper as saying "You can't force people to be clean."

The Beaver Hall Hill Group of Montreal Painters

Nora Collyer Landscapes, clipped off Google. 

I've been writing about art for a New York City based organization and this week, for International Women's Day, I wrote about Women and Art.

Which got me to thinking about Montreal artists, again.

I've written here about Mary Riter Hamilton, the Canadian Impressionist painter. In my book, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, (based on Edith Nicholson's situation in 1910) I have Edith faint in the Montreal Art Association building at Phillip's Square. She sees a picture called Maternity by Riter Hamilton, a picture of a woman breastfeeding - and it suddenly hits her that she will never marry or have children.

.Image result for maternity riter hamilton tighsolas
Riter Hamilton in Maclean's 1910

Anyway, Riter Hamilton was famous in her day. Maclean's did a piece on her. She had been to Paris and even exhibited at one of their salons. She is quoted as saying she doesn't paint 'grotesque' things like so many of the other impressionist painters.

Riter Hamilton today is practically forgotten, but it appears a group of women artists, Montreal artists, is enjoying a resurgence of popularity.

I'm talking about the Beaver Hall Group, that was started up by A Y Jackson, but which included many women who worked out of the Montreal Art Association Building. (Diary of a Confirmed Spinster has an exact description of that place. I found it in a McGill Thesis.)

Years ago the National Film Board did a film about the Women of the Beaver Hall Group, By Women's Hand.

(It's not available for viewing online.)

There's a Wikipedia listing about them too. (Always important. This past International Women's Day a group of artists had a Wikipedia-thon, out of MoMA in NY, adding listings about women artists to that website.)

There's a new book coming out in December 2015 about the Group, coinciding with an exhibition at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts,  The Beaver Hall Group: 1920's Modernity.

Some of the paintings by this group are selling for goodly amounts, I can see.

Take Nora Collyer, a Montrealer who painted the Eastern Townships. I can see that her impressionist (and expressionist) paintings are selling very well - and she painted a lot of them. One sold for over 60,000 lately.

Collyer has a Wikipedia listing, too.  She was born in 1898 and died in 1979, a contemporary of Flora Nicholson of Threshold Girl, who also painted but didn't bother painting around her home, Tighsolas. Too bad!

If I were to put pictures on my Tighsolas Books (all about a family in the Eastern Townships) I would use Collyer's. She sure captures the essence of the place.

Many artists of the Beaver Hall Group painted the city, which is nice. "Women paint what they know. They don't have to go up North," said Anne Savage, another member of the group, in an interview later in life. She was, of course, referring to the Group of Seven and their masculine mystique.

Oddly, Collyer was more popular in the first half of the century. The National Gallery exhibited her works in 1969. Collyer was still alive then. She died in 1979.

Perhaps this had something to do with the evolving politics of Quebec. This Beaver Hall Group was mostly English. Possibly...Or maybe this is because Serious Women Painters just get no respect, which was the subject of my article for the NY organization.

My own Aunt Cecile attended the Beaux Arts in Montreal in the 30's and won first prize. (I have her medal somewhere.)

Oh, here it is. 1936 Cours Superieure Premiere Prix.Oil painting.

She painted mostly religious still lifes. Lugubrious stuff.   She had technique but, apparently, a teacher said she had to go out and live a little.  As far as I know she was part of no group. She was French Canadian. She spent a lot of time in Ogunquit, though.

A ripped painting of Aunt Flo by my Aunt Cecile. Aunt Cecile painted 'before the times' instead of with the times or ahead of the times.  That's why I have so many art nouveau vases. She hated them and gave them to Flo who gave them to me.

Tennis, Furies and Donaldas

(From McGill archives. RVC tennis players.)

Scene 2: The tennis courts west of  Royal Victoria College of McGill, a monumental five story limestone structure resembling more a luxury railway hotel than a seminary, with an entrance off Sherbrooke Street with a seven arched loggia and crenellated balustrade, and many, many steps leading up to it.

Two young women in crisp white duck middy blouses over long ankle length skirts, black kerchiefs at their necks, white laced sneakers on their feet and large wooden tennis racquets on their laps, sit on a bench and await their turn on the court.

“Warm up!” orders a lady coach from the back of the court.

“Yes, Miss Cartwright,” the girls answer in tandem.

They stand and begin stretching out their legs. 

One girl is tall and slim-boned, the other shorter, with a trim muscular build and broad coat hanger shoulders that make her waist, uninhibited by stays for the time being, seem smaller than it is.

The tall girl has medium dark brown hair with few highlights tied up in a bun and pale skin, because she is an indoor, studious type and the shorter girl has long strawberry-blond hair laced with golden threads and because she is an outdoor type her hair is tied back in a ponytail.  She also has applied a liberal amount of Hains Skin Balm to her face to protect her skin from the sun and wind.

The shorter girl has blue eyes, an upturned nose and a pink rosebud mouth; the tall girl has hazel eyes, on the greenish side, a broad face with prominent cheekbones, a long tapered nose and a wide mouth with thinnish lips and beautiful straight teeth as white as milk.

The tall, serious girl is Mathilda Jenkins; the shorter golden girl is Penelope Day.

They are strangers to each other. They have just been slapped together for the first time, in the very first P. E. class of the year, an absolutely random act that will have serious implications for the future.  I promise.

But life is like that, isn’t it?

“Aren’t you excited?” asks Miss Day. “This year we get to take classes on campus with the men.”

She sighs an extended stage sigh as she stretches her right leg out at an outrageous angle demonstrating uncommon flexibility. “I just know I won’t be able to concentrate and I will fail out before I get my degree.” And, then, she touches her nose to her knee.

“They are just pimply boys for the most part,” replies Miss Jenkins, looking less elegant attempting a similar, less ambitious stretch. “Hardly worth our consideration.”

“And when we walk to class,” continues Miss Day, undaunted by the previous remark and rolling her right shoulder, “Up Sherbrooke and through the McGill Green, I plan to stick out my tongue when the boys sing their silly songs mocking us women students.”

“It’s just a few upperclassmen who do that. Smart Alek’s. I’ve already taken classes on campus. It is no big deal.”

“How is that?”

“Because I took Botany last year and the laboratories are all on the main campus.”


“Miss Derick’s laboratory, where no male student dare mock us women students, us Donaldas.”

“Oh, yes, the Science Lady. I don’t take Botany. I study modern languages,” says Miss Day.  “German and Italian.  It will be useful when I travel the world in the circus,” and, to prove her point, she performs a cartwheel so deftly that the coach doesn’t even notice.

“I take Botany and Geology and Natural Sciences. I want to be a pharmacist when I graduate. My father owns a pharmacy on the edge of Westmount and St. Henri. Your father?”

“My father travels,” Miss Day answers evasively. “He and my mother are away in Europe for two whole years. “

“What’s he doing there?” asks Miss Jenkins, not taking the hint.

“He’s in diplomacy. In Serbia. You’ve heard of that place?”

Yes, Constantine and iconoclasty and that Prince, What’s His Name… I can’t recall. I took History two whole years ago.

“Yes, I agree,” says Miss Day, “What’s the use of going to college when you forget everything you’ve learned the day after the final exam?”

“We’re not here to learn to be human encyclopedias. We’re here to learn to think for ourselves,” counters Mathilda, her voice rising an octave or two.

“I don’t want to think for myself. No one likes people who think for themselves, especially women,” says Miss Day provocatively, with a pretty pout on her lips and a deliberately vacuous look in her eye.

Miss Jenkins does not know what to respond. She cannot tell if Miss Day is joking or not. She has a mind to end the conversation there, for ever and ever, because life is too short to waste on the shallow, but she is puzzled by this girl, this Penelope Day.

So she continues, being provocative in her turn, “I would imagine you’d learn Italian and German faster travelling in Europe with your parents.”

“Well, my parents don’t agree. That’s why they’ve plunked me in this horrible prison.”

“The College is more like a fancy hotel than a prison, I think,” says Miss Jenkins.

“A fancy prison is still a prison” replies Miss Day. “And how would you know? You live at home!” And then she breaks out into song.

“I’m only a bird in a gilded cage,

A beautiful sight to see,

You may think I’m happy and free from care,

I’m not, though I seem to be.”

'Tis sad when you think of her wasted life…

 “And on school break,” continues  Miss Day in a normal unconfrontational tone,  “I have to stay with my crazy old Aunt, Lady Dulcette, in Long Island. I’m in her care. She’s the patroness of the Long Island Farm for Wayward Girls, don’t you know?  She makes these girls work out in the fields with spades and buckets. I’ve seen pictures.”

“What are they in there for?”

“I don’t know. For smoking cigars in the lobby of the Waldorf Astoria, I guess. Or for wearing a hareem skirt on the Brooklyn Bridge.”

Penelope has read about these incidents in the Social Notes of the newspapers.

She suddenly changes the subject because she starts to feel lonely. “What are your extracurriculars?”

“Debating team. Yours?”

“Hockey and tennis”

“You are good at sports then?” asks Miss Jenkins, although she’d already figured it out watching the nimble creature perform her warm up.

“Very,” replies Miss Day.

“Only debating, you?  No sports.”

“No sports. Miss Hurlbatt is giving a citizenship course, though, so I’ve signed up.”

 “Citizenship. Sounds dreadful. And with that humourless old cow from England.”

Now it is Penelope’s turn to write off Miss Jenkins as a boring and dull type.

“Don’t you know?” asks Mathilda. She lowers her voice for no reason. “Citizenship is code for suffrage.”


“Woman suffrage. Votes for women. Certainly, you’ve heard about that?”

“Yes, sort of.”

“Miss Hurlbatt is a leader in the Montreal Movement and rumour has it she knows Mrs. Pankhurst personally from her days in London. Miss Derick, too, is involved and a host of other Donaldas – old ones who graduated ages and ages ago.

“You’ve read about Mrs. Pankhurst and her militants, haven’t you? In the newspapers.”

“No, not really. I stick to the society and fashion pages. And sports pages.”

“Well, consider taking Hurlbatt’s course. It might be more interesting than you think.”

“Citizenship! Ick. I would rather join La Société Francaise and recite Victor Hugo in front of the pigeons in Phillip’s Square.”

“Miss Day and Miss Jenkins.  You are up next,” shouts Miss Cartwright using her palms as a megaphone and the girls’ conversation ends there, which is good as it was taking a dangerous turn.

Proper young ladies in 1910 do not discuss politics.

“Yes, Miss Cartwright,” they both reply as the players on the court stop playing and walk up to the net to shake hands.

“Our turn,” says Miss Jenkins to Miss Day. “Please be kind.”

“And you don’t be lazy and let me win too easily,” replies Miss Day. “There’s nothing I hate more.”

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Closet Militants in Montreal, circa 1910

Here's the list of Canadian suffragists and suffragettes on Wikipedia. Pretty pathetic, eh?

And The Famous Five are famous for a 'persons' case held in 1927-28 (the era of my story Milk and Water - about Montreal City Hall in the era of US Prohibition. I'm guessing the Famous Five were all for Prohibition, temperance types.

Emily Stowe was an Equal Rights Suffragist, that I know and was her daughter Augusta-Stowe Gullen, but maternal suffragists pushed them from the movement in and around 1910.

I never learned much about these suffragists, being schooled in Quebec. And I learned nothing about the Canadian suffrage movement or any suffrage movement in school. Odd, since I went to school in the era of "Women's Lib" and we had lots of debates in class.

My information was restricted back then to 'bra-burning' issues from the media and what I could find in the school library.

 (I guess I could have gone out and asked any old lady on the street, but how was I to know under those thick surgical stockings and mound of grey hair rolled up into a motherly bun, there once was a young social activist with big dreams.)

Still, I knew what a suffragette was from TV and movies. A silly person in silly costume waving a placard and (in newsreels)walking about jerkily, like a giant chicken in a big big hat. Or a pretty girl like Natalie Wood in The Great Race, who was all talk about women's rights but who really wanted love.

So when I found the Nicholson letters from the 1908-1913 era and read them and transcribed them and posted the online at Tighsolas, I was intrigued by the many references to the suffragettes and the many press clippings of suffragette stories.

These were Canadian women, Montreal women,  my husband's great grandmother, grandmother and great aunts.

Edith and Flora Nicholson, Richmond Quebec.1913. LIke many young Canadian middle class women of their era, they supported the militant suffragettes of Great Britain.

I had a copy of Pierre Berton's Marching As to War about the Great War  and saw the book contained only a few sentences about the Canadian Suffrage Movement. Berton says the movement peaked in 1910 and was propelled by temperance types. (Very boring.)

So I dug out from the McGill Library the only two books on the Canadian Suffrage Movement, one a Master's Thesis by an American, Catherine Cleverdon and one a book based on a thesis by McGill student Carole Bacchi and read them. (That was 8 years ago, and as I had no context, I can't say I recall much about them.)

Over the next few years, while researching the background to the Tighsolas letters from my sSchool Marms and Suffragettes series, including Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster and Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British suffragettes and their invasion of Montreal in 1912/13.

I learned a lot more from primary and secondary sources and right now I think I know enough to start on my documentary, Sister Salvation.

Emmeline Pankhurst being rushed away from some demonstration (Hyde Park?) in the 1913 era. Canadian suffragists distanced themselves from the British militants, at least 'officially.'

I also think I've figured out why our Canadian Suffrage Narrative has little to do with women who actually campaigned for the vote.

(Women in Canada (and the British Suffragettes) pressured Borden to give women the vote but he passed the buck and claimed this was in provincial jurisdiction.

He gave women with military connections the vote for the 1917 conscription election and after that all women with exception of recently naturalized foreign women from outside North America. (I think that's how it went..)

The Montreal Suffrage Association, founded in 1913, disbanded in 1919 - and a 1919 letter to the editor in the Gazette at the time of its dissolution suggests the group lost all its members when the President sent a letter to Borden opposing conscription.

So the organization probably had little influence on women getting the vote in Canada although they had input into a collective effort to give married women in Quebec more rights.

The same 1919 letter to the editor claimed only 9 members (out of original 300) were present at the meeting to disband.

 It is clear from press clippings, however, that the Montreal Suffrage Association spent a great deal of time on War Work and fundraising efforts  in the 1914-18 period. At the start of war in 1914 they pledged to divert all their efforts to the cause. They held weekly meetings on University Street. A Mrs. Scott, English born, took over the leadership from Miss Derick. She had two boys at the front and was a Temperance Advocate. The Montreal Suffrage Association also had booths at country fairs, Dominion Park and the Automobile Show.

A news clipping from December 1912 before inauguration  reveals that there is friction between the new members and a small but active group of would be militants, but also admits that Mrs. Pankhurst and Miss Barbara Wiley (British militants) inspired the Montreal Council to spin off the Suffrage Group. (So without minutes it's hard to guess what exactly is going on with these people. They appear all over the map, perhaps even floating trial balloons in the newspapers.)

In one article The Montreal Suffrage Association says  it is neither militant or anti-militant as that issue is irrelevant in Montreal.

Toronto Suffragettes too probably had little influence. They got into trouble in the 1913-1914 era supporting the Militant British Suffragettes or by opposing the war effort entirely (something the Militant British Suffragettes didn't do. Mrs. Pankhurst was no fool.)

(We are told differently now, but as Pierre Berton shows, not everyone in English Canada was for the war effort, . Indeed, I have a letter from a doctor relation of the Nicholsons in BC in 1917 who claims the only men signing up are British men hoping for a cheap ride home as the jobs have dried up for them. In a 1916 letter, Marion Nicholson says her mother in law rails against conscription "as if her sons are the only ones to go." Family friends, the Tuckers, lose a son in the War just before Armistice. First they hear he is dead, then alive, then dead. Flora writes about it in a letter, but the story makes the Montreal Gazette. Flora's beau is the brother, Herb, who is also overseas and writes Flora letters. "Don't come over here to work as a nurse," he writes from the Belgian front. "It is not bonne over here.")

So NO CANADIAN SUFFRAGE MYTH. History Forgotten if not Effaced.

Edith Nicholson as Commandant of the Canadian Red Cross in WWII. In the WWI era I suspect she was involved with the Montreal Suffrage Association as she knew Carrie Derick, the organization's first president, and as she later worked under Mrs. Hurlbatt, the Warden of the Royal Victoria College, who was also a suffragist/suffragette.

And there's probably another reason for this  'cover-up': the movement's murky relationship with eugenics, especially in Montreal, especially with respect to  McGill professors and students.

And since most social history in Canada is Toronto-centric and little is done concerning the history of Anglo Quebec that doesn't come out of McGill, well,....

Now, I assumed that the suffrage movement in Canada has been sort of censored because its narrative  threatened that delicate balance between English and French Canada.

Quebec did not give the vote to women until the 1940's, with Therese Casgrain (a relation of mine, I think) doing the work. (A Canadian Suffragette off the Wikipedia list but not not Harper's list, he's not putting her, with the Famous Five, on the new Holographic Canadian plastic money.

But the real story of our suffragist/suffragette movement actually explains a lot about why French Canada didn't want any part of the movement.

Anyway, I'm off to write the script for my documentary.